Following the broadband money

Posts Tagged ‘online piracy

Music piracy drives legal sales (a bit)

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For light relief I sometimes follow copyright issues, especially music piracy. So it was with great interest I came across this little tidbit from the European Commission’s institute for prospective technological studies.

The good guys there analysed the clickstreams from 16,000 digital music consumers and concluded that a 10% increase in clicks on pirate music download sites leads to a corresponding 0.2% rise in clicks on legal download sites.

Conversely, a 10% increase in clicks on legal streaming websites leads to up to a 0.7% increase in clicks on legal digital purchase websites.  The difference in effect between legal and illegal sources on music sales is basically zero, they found.

“Our results suggest that internet users do not view illegal downloading as a substitute for legal digital music,” say the researchers.

“Our fi ndings indicate that digital music piracy does not displace legal music purchases in digital format. This means that although there is trespassing of private property  rights (copyrights), there is unlikely to be much harm done on digital music revenues.”

Bottom line? The Pirate Bay, Megaupload etc were doing the music companies’ marketing for them. For free.

It’s time to repeal the misbegotten Digital Economy Act, and lift the useless court-imposed ISP blocks on content.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/03/19 at 22:25

What are the hard costs and benefits of online surveillance?

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It is annoying to read, once again, reports that the coalition government, or at least certain civil servants, wants to reintroduce Labour’s shelved Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), now in its new guise as the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP.

Curiously, the story broke in the same week that Canada introduced a “Crime Bill” to permit surveillance, allegedly to give children the same online protection that others countries give, but which looks a lot like the IMP.

Basically the law enforcement people want to be able to tap phones they way used to, but the change in technology to packet switching means this is hard to impossible.

The initial cost of IMP was put at £12bn. This was mainly for the centralised GCHQ database, to be run by US outsource outfit EDS. This was to house all the emails, social network chit-chat, telephone calls, and especially voice over IP calls, that originate in or transit the UK. GCHQ then apparently opted for a £2bn pilot study. No-one outside the security establishment knows whether it worked, or to what extent it failed.

The UK, and to be fair, most other countries, have been deluged with draconian surveillance legislation ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In Britain, the Information Commissioner’s Office even produced a report that asked whether we were sleep-walking into a “surveillance state,” and answered its own question with a “yes”.

Communications service providers like BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky etc, are required under data retention laws to keep header information about the messages that transit their networks for a year. This information is essentially the same as one might find on a postal letter: name and address of sender and receiver, and the time of sending. NOT the contents. Or at least, not yet.

The data retention laws are supported by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). Under RIPA warrants to intercept messages (i.e. the entire communication)  must be signed by a secretary of state of a Scottish minister. “The authorisation can only be given in the interests of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime or for the purpose of safeguarding the economic well-being of the United Kingdom,” the Interception of Communications Commissioner (ICC) says in his 2010 annual report.

In 2010 the Home Secretary signed 1,682 warrants, and there were 1,048 still in force at the end of the year, a 10% rise over 2009. Scottish ministers approved 183 warrants, down from 204 in 2008, leaving 46 still in force at the end of the year a 5% rise from 2008. The ICC does not report how many requests were refused.

RIPA also allows hundreds of thousands of civil servants to request communications data (i.e. the “envelope information”). And they do. Those allowed include the intelligence agencies, police forces, the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA), the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and other public authorities such as the Gambling Commission, Financial Services Authority (FSA) and local authorities.

The ICC’s annual report for 2010 says there were 552,550 requests for communications data for that year. This was up from 525,130 and 504,173 in the two preceding years respectively. Some 65% were to find out who owns a mobile phone. In the light of investigations into police corruption allied to mobile phone hacking, that may cause some concern.

There is without doubt a terrorist threat: the 7/7 London bombs show that. But with the death of Osama bin Laden and the apparently destruction of  of Al-Queda, what threats remain?

One would not like to think that the entire panoply of anti-terrorist measures are to be used to fight RnB music pirates, as SOCA did this week.

The fact remains that this entire area is virtually evidence-free, certainly with regard to costs and benefits. One imagines that MI6 could buy an awful lot of human intelligence with £12bn, without affecting the law-abiding majority of the population.

These are the questions I would like to see answered and debated in public.

What evidence must the authorities produce for minister to grant a warrant to permit surveillance?

How can ministers test it before they grant the warrant?

How many warrants does the government expect to issue a year?

Under what circumstances will the evidence gathered from surveillance be permitted in court?

How do the investigators account for IP spoofing, for temporary IP address assignments, for TOR’ed messages and for encrypted messages?

Who bears the cost of collecting, storing and accessing communications data?

What is the budget for the collection, storage, retrieval and subsequent processing of this data?

What protections and sources of restitution are there for people falsely identified and investigated?

What estimates are there of the number of residents who buy or sell pornographic images of children?

How many convictions have been secured in the past five years in which evidence gathered using surveillance laws, particularly intercept and communications data, proved conclusive to the prosecution?

What is the split between convictions related to terrorism and to economic crime (including smuggling)?


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/02/19 at 14:10

Learning to love Big Brother

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There have been startling developments in the field of online copyright in the first few weeks of 2012.

Yesterday saw the European Parliament’s rapporteur, Kader Arif, hand back the dossier on the controversial Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta). Arif’s job was to shepherd it through parliament so that member states can get on with enacting it.

Arif said he was no longer prepared to be part of the “masquerade”, and denounced the process that had brought Acta to the point where yesterday 22 countries signed up to it.

This followed less than a week after the US Congress withdrew two bills to clamp down on online copyright infringement, and the FBI shut down MegaUpload, a website that allegedly traded or pointed to infringing copyright material.

In the past week, the music industry produced figures that showed that while sales of CDs were down, legal digital downloads were at record levels.

Meanwhile, the UK government has asked former Ofcom boss Richard Hooper to look into the feasibility of setting up a digital copyright exchange, where creators can license their work to others who want to reproduce or reuse and distribute it.

All this follows the abortive eG8 meeting last year, where “new media” representatives crossed swords with advocates for harsh penalties for copyright infringers.

The copyright issue is simply this: people who were prepared to invest bought the right to copy and distribute the original work from the creators. The machinery, materials and transport were relatively expensive, too much so for most individual creators. But thereafter the rightsholders enjoyed an effective monopoly on sales of the work, and made a lot of money from it. The internet threatens that monopoly because digital content is easy and cheap to copy and distribute by anyone with a computer and internet access.

This is not a new problem. The music industry in particular has gone a long way to coming to terms with it, even if it doesn’t like giving 30% of the sale price to Apple for stuff sold through iTunes. So the question is why it is suddenly big news?

Deep in the heart of the debate is the issue of control of the internet.

The concerns of the rightsholders are valid, but they are a sideshow. Much more important, in some circles, is to legitimise the power to censor content on the internet and to monitor troublemakers.

There can be few governments that looked on the Arab Spring, and not shiver at how fast legitimacy can wash away. Wikileaks’ release of official video footage that showed the apparent murder of civilians by US armed forces shocked millions. Wikileaks’ subsequent release of embarrassing diplomatic cables, and the reaction to it, showed how potent the net is in helping to shape public opinion. For most governments, it is simply too dangerous for the internet to be left uncontrolled.

So governments are content to let or even encourage the music and film industries to make the running for the legislation to shut down offending content and websites. The faceless MEPs in Brussels offer a convenient mask, as Arif says.

Forget about copyright piracy – it is a red herring. This is really about political control of the net. No doubt, like Winston Smith, we may all have learn to love Big Brother.




Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/01/27 at 08:02

Dodgy doings in defence of copyright

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Music rightsholders have shown a remarkable willingness to indulge in questionable tactics to preserve and extend their control of digital content.

First we had Lord Peter Mandelson’s Corfu lunch with Hollywood oligarch David Geffen that led to the sudden and unexpected inclusion of “three strikes and out” provisions in the Digital Economy Act.

Now TorrentFreak, a website that watches the battle between rights holders, copyright pirates and other interested parties, is following the saga of how Universal Music got YouTube to take down a promotional video for Megaupload, a free online file storage service, that was going viral.

The catchy Mega Song, which features music artists like Blackeyed Pea , P. Diddy and Alicia Keys, has been up and down and up again on YouTube as the legal arguments have flowed.

The takedown seemed possible thanks to a side deal between YouTube (owned by Google) and Universal that allows Universal to get YouTube to take down material to which it does not own the copyright.

This goes beyond the ambit of the Digital Copyright Millennium Act (DCMA), many of whose provisions are written into the Anticounterfeit Trade Agreement (Acta), which is now in the European Parliament for a vote. Acta is a rightsholder-sponsored multilateral deal that activists claim would not pass public scrutiny.

Taken together, Acta and the Mega Song case sheds an interesting light on the motives of music rights holders.  They would make rightsholders key gatekeepers in the emerging digital economy as broadband access to digital content expands.

The UK government is fighting back, somewhat, with its consultation on a new copyright regime in the light of the Hargreaves Commission report. This would allow private copying eg from a CD you own to an MP3 player, greater access to “orphan works” i.e. work for whom ownership cannot be established, and non-commercial data mining of academic works.

Perhaps most interestingly, it has already asked Richard Hooper to do a feasibility study to test a key Hargreaves recommendation, a digital rights exchange, to reduce the friction and cost of buying online rights.

On the face of it, this would be a good or better deal for artists. According to the Bemuso blog, artists might earn five pence from a 79p digital download, and rightholders 46p. The exchange would allow them to sell rights directly, and possible earn more than what they can earn via the rightholders, without having to sign away their copyright to record labels.

If government has been slow to change the status quo and seem to be siding with rightsholders, Bemuso shows why: after the rightsholder, the next biggest beneficiary is the government.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/12/17 at 20:03

US nixes site and account blocking in new copyright piracy deal

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US internet service providers and copyright holder bodies yesterday signed a voluntary agreement to notify internet users when their accounts are allegedly used to download copyright material illegally.
Users will receive up to six emails warning of the alleged infringement, but there will be no blocking of websites or user accounts, and ISPs will not give out the names of their account holders.
According to a statement marking the event, content theft costs the US economy more than 373,000 jobs, $16bn in lost earnings, and $3bn in lost taxes. No source was given for these data.
The new Copyright Alert System will start to come into effect later this year.
The signatories are
MPAA and MPAA members: Walt Disney, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, and Universal Studios and Warner Bros
RIAA and RIAA members: Universal Music, Warner Music, Sony Music, and EMI Music North
ISPs: AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon
IFTA: representing independent producers and distributors of film and
television programming
A2IM: representing 283 music label members, small and medium
sized businesses
It remains to be seen how this agreement will affect content aggregators such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, who are not signed up.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/07/08 at 11:59

Rightsholders secure G8 victory on online copyright

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The G8 heads of state ignored pleas from Google’s Eric Schmidt and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to delay “premature” lock-down of the internet.

Instead, they preferred to support host French president Nicholas Sarkozy’s controversial view of how to tackle online piracy. But they hinted they may change their minds, given fresh evidence.

In a statement on the internet issued at Deauville, the G8 leaders said the sometimes heated E>G8, where both Schmidt and Zuckerman spoke, was a “free and fruitful debate” and “a contribution for all relevant fora on current and future challenges”.

Nevertheless, they were “renewing” their commitment to ensure effective action against “violations of intellectual property rights in the digital arena, including action that addresses present and future infringements”.

They said, “We recognise that the effective implementation of intellectual property rules requires suitable international cooperation of relevant stakeholders, including with the private sector.”

They committed themselves to find ways to increase access and openness to knowledge, education and culture. This included encouraging continued innovation in legal online trade in goods and content, that were “respectful of our intellectual property rights”.

This was a victory for copyright intensive businesses such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Fox Studios, as well as France’s Vivendi and even Orange, the French mobile network operator. At the E>G8 Murdoch himself as well as representatives of the above firms, and others, argued for tougher penalties for content thieves and vigorous policing of the internet by internet service providers (ISPs).

On the related matter of users’ privacy, the leaders said individuals were ultimately responsible for what they put online. They agreed it was important to protect personal data and individual privacy to earn users’ trust. While ISPs, regulators and governments had a role, users needed to be “better aware of their responsibility” when placing personal data on the internet, they said.

Turning to cybersecurity, the G8 called for coordination between governments, regional and international organisations, the private sector, civil society and the G8’s own work in the Roma-Lyon group, to fight cyberterrorists and cybercriminals.

They said user awareness of the threat of botnets was crucial to fight attacks against infrastructure, networks and services, and against spreading malware.

They called on all stakeholders to fight the use of the internet for trafficking in children and for their sexual exploitation. They promised to work towards improving online child safety and parental controls, without limiting free expression.

They said there had been good progress in improving internet access in developing countries, particularly for education and healthcare.

They said they looked forward to further input from several international conferences later in the year. These were the Internet Governance Forum (September), the OECD meeting on the internet economy in Paris (June 2012), the London Internet Cyber Conference scheduled (November), and the Avignon Conference on Copyright (November).

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/05/27 at 14:32

Online copyright laws are premature, say telcos, ISPs

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European communications providers and internet service providers (ISPs) yesterday condemned European Commission moves to protect online content, saying they were were “premature”.

In a joint statement, Cable Europe, ECTA, ETNO, EuroISPA and GSMA, welcomed the search for search for a “holistic” solution, but regretted that the Commission seemed  “pre-disposed to revise the IPR Enforcement Directive 2004/48 (IPRED) at this premature stage”.

Too little had passed from the directive’s transpostion into national law, it said. “Consequently, there is insufficient evidence at this stage to suggest a real necessity for a revision.”

Premature changes risked stifling innovation and the development of new models by which creative people could build new businesses and jobs, they said.

The signatories worried that the commission planned to force ISPs to police their internet traffic for illegal downloads, and that this could make them liable for charges of illegally infringing their customers’  privacy, and the entire process was outside judicial oversight. .

The statement highlights background to an opinion expressed by the commission’s Digital Agenda head, Neelie Kroes, at the E>G8 conference in Paris this morning. Kroes said the present copyright regime was unfit for purpose in the digital economy and needed to be updated.

Several (US) speakers from the E>G8 floor praised the recent Hargreaves review, the UK’s effort to update copyright for the digital economy. It was “less moralistic” than yesterday’s heated debate on the subject, said one.